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The first Democrat to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate in over two decades made gun politics the topic of his inaugural floor speech.
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones gave gun control advocates something to cheer for on Wednesday when he took the podium on Capitol Hill and hit most of the contemporary high points in the nation’s current conversation on firearm regulation.
Jones, who eked out a narrow 50 percent victory in his race against a controversial former Alabama Supreme Court judge last December, is filling Jeff Session’s seat, vacated when that Alabama Republican moved on to become President Trump’s attorney general, and made clear he is the polar opposite of Sessions when it came to gun control.
Starting off by giving an emotional nod to those he encountered while a Congressional staffer in the building in 1979, his family, and the late Howell Heflin — the last Dem from Heart of Dixie in the chamber, Jones settled in and moved to the meat of his speech.
“Growing up in Alabama, I learned to shoot from my father and grandfather,” he said, prefacing his Second Amendment credentials, elaborating that he was an avid hunter and collector. “But frankly, I also enjoy guns. I enjoy shooting them. I like how they are made, their power, and their history.”
Then, Jones switched his oratory to the failures of lawmakers and society to halt gun deaths in “epidemic-type numbers,” to which he accentuated with anecdotes of shootings in churches, hospitals, and schools, claiming the lives of worshipers, nurses, and children. And because of youth, the former federal prosecutor specializing in civil rights cases argued, there is now a moment of pause.
“I believe we have finally reached a tipping point regarding gun violence now, not because of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, but thanks to the millions of young voices across this country, led by students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” Jones said. “Much like the students who took to the streets of Birmingham in 1963, who were attacked by firehoses and police dogs, who woke the conscience of America to civil rights, these young men and women are awakening the conscience of America regarding gun violence.”
Jones then moved on to his support for a laundry list of gun control bills, notably jettisoning outright federal gun bans “which frankly, and as a practical matter will not pass Congress.” What he does support is a ban on bump stocks, moving forward on “Fix NICS” legislation, Sen. Toomey’s NICS Denial Notification bill, expanding background checks to private gun sales, closing the so-called “Charleston loophole,” advancing “red flag” legislation and repealing the Dickey Amendment which prohibits federal funding for public health research advocating gun control.
“Whether it is for Dreamers, or voting rights, or victims of sex trafficking, or in this case, our children who are demanding action on gun violence, we have the opportunity to build that tidal wave of justice and have hope and history rhyme,” Jones said. “But we have to have the courage to seize the moment.”